The demo, called by the TUC, saw 55,000 people marching past this year’s Conservative Party Conference, calling for an end to the downsizing and privatisation of NHS services.
The rally that followed brought Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham and the leaders of the Unison and Unite public sector unions onto the same platform – but there was no message of support from Labour leader Ed Miliband.
John Robb (pictured) of punk band Goldblade presented the rally, which featured live music from the region – including the Farm and the Stalybridge Brass Band – alongside political speakers.
Unite leader Len McCluskey warned the Government, “We will take back anything your slimy corrupt hands steal” – but failed to note that the privatisation of NHS services was promoted by the last Labour government.
Andy Burnham said the demo was a “message of hope” to NHS staff and patients, and a warning to an “out of touch” Government that “has no permission to put the NHS up for sale.”
He emphasised his commitment to repealing the ‘any qualified provider’ rules on competition, and promised: “We will restore the N in NHS.”
Labour Party activist and writer Owen Jones drew attention to the “vultures” of private healthcare “circling” over the new NHS – including Care UK, which donated £20,000 to Andrew Lansley for his private office in 2010.
The day’s protest had an underlying theme of healing the current rift between the Labour Party and the trade union movement, and thereby silencing the calls of many trade unionists for a general strike and the formation of a new left party.